Being on the other side of the healthcare window has prepared Wilma Santos-Gonzalez to make a positive impact on patients each day at Capital Medical Center.
As the Clinic Front Desk Coordinator at the Advanced Wound Care, her job is hectic with lots of incoming calls, insurance authorization checks, requests from nurses and physicians, as well as managing patients checking in for their appointments.
“I’ve encountered the front office person who hasn’t been happy at check-in,” Wilma recalls. “As I’ve fought for my son and his care, I told myself if I ever have the chance, I’m going to do my best to make others feel better. Even if it’s for a brief moment to help them forget the pain, I will make them feel better about themselves and leave them with a smile.”
Wilma joined Capital Medical Center in July of 2017 after seven years living in New York. Her family had been used to cross-country moving with the military; her husband, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, was then transferred to Washington State’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Ten years earlier, Wilma gave birth to a son who was born prematurely and without Chromosome 6, one of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes; people normally have two copies of this chromosome.
Her son was not expected to live more than a year. Even after a misdiagnosis, doctors warned of developmental delays, intellectual deficiencies, and behavioral issues. He would be on the autism spectrum and would take 10 medications daily.
Wilma, though, is a proud, strong mother who hasn’t wavered in fighting for the most in the care of her son. She’s dedicated countless hours and endless energy to ensure her son would overcome odds and live a happy life. Today, her son is thriving as a vibrant 11-year old who is succeeding in school and is a karate green belt who even won first place among the special needs division in the 2016 national Taekwondo championships!
To Wilma, her story of perseverance in raising an exceptional young man has strengthened her, and she enjoys the resolve its given her to give strength and joy to the patients with whom she comes in contact.
“I share my story to let them know they’re not alone,” Wilma says. “I’m just a desk or a phone call away. I’ll often call a patient after their appointment to see how they’re doing, and I’ve been told that’s made their day. A few words of encouragement can change a person’s life, and I try to do that anywhere I go in life.
“You don’t always know what a patient is going through … while I can’t take the pain away, I can make a difference in their life for just a few minutes when I share my story with them. I feel blessed to come to work each day,” Wilma says.
“She does this all with a very big smile,” says Wound Care Center Director Heather Zuchowski. “Wilma is pleasant, attentive, and very responsive to our patients’ needs. Frequently she is mentioned in patient satisfaction surveys and has been deemed as being ‘great’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘a saint’.”
Heather also notes nearly every day Wilma is spotted writing an inspirational quote on the staff white board to boost the team’s spirit and start the day off with a laugh or a smile.
“The Advanced Wound Center would not be functioning as smoothly as it is without Wilma,” Zuchowski says.